The name reflects Kira’s college major and her 25-year teaching career as a theater teacher. Tucked into a 1,200-square-foot space in the Mission Plaza shopping center on Santa Rita Road, it’s the antithesis of what you’d typically expect in a pizzeria. There’s just one table and three bar stools inside because this is a grab-and-go if you order in advance or the opportunity to watch your favorite pizza be tossed and created and then baked as you would in a demonstration kitchen or your own kitchen. Kira loves that family aspect.
She makes each pizza while Mark handles the cooking and the dough preparation. It’s a four-day process to create the sourdough for the crust. Once it's done, it’s boxed for you to take home—or in nice weather, move outside and eat it at a table.
The business that grew out of Kira’s baking during the pandemic and her leading to leave the teaching profession. She told Mark she wanted to open a pizzeria and he, a business major in college, said do a business plan. She did and he concluded it could work. Mark describes his wife as a “force of nature,” a description that Kira embraces, saying she’s a “warrior” and when she wants something “she goes for it full hog.’
Before launching this summer, they’ve attended two international pizza conventions and competitions—Kira’s taken home prizes as well as becoming a leader in the push for more women in ownership. They have been delighted by the camaraderie and willingness to share within the industry. The owner of State of Mind in Los Altos invited them to spend a day in his restaurant and see all of his systems. Similar offers and help has come from people across the country.
Their model is unusual in that it’s not built on volume—Mark says the business works if they sell 50 pies a day. Part of their research was finding other successful small volume operations. Kira handcrafts the pizza and changes the menu based on what’s available in the market. She particularly enjoys working vegetables in such as her white asparagus pizza. Their approach allows friendly contact with customers and a manageable schedule (open 3-8 pm, Monday-Saturday). Because there’s no exhaust hood, there’s no cooking facilities other than the pizza oven and that requires ingredients that are fresh or fully cooked.
Their menu reflects the Shakespeare theme with Taming of the Chew (pepperoni) or The Original Much Ado (tomato sauce, fresh basil and cheese) or Henry The 8 (cheese, plus pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, red onions, olives, green bell peppers and mushrooms). They want their custom sourdough crust to be consumed so they offer two dipping sauces to encourage clients to finish the 14-inch pizzas.
The basic pizza is a thin crust, but they offer a thicker crust for people who prefer it that way. That reflects their desire to meet the customer’s desires, whether it’s more cheese or topping or skipping a topping.
They’re currently living in Livermore and both of their families live in the San Ramon Valley. They taught at Quarry Lane high school for nine years until leaving in June to open the pizzeria. The lease started in April so they were thrilled when wineries allowed them to do pop-ups so they had some cash flow for rent.
The partnership with wineries, particularly Page Mill, mirrors the willingness of pizza operators to share knowledge. Winemaker Dane Stark loves pizza and invited the Zabrowski’s to partner with Page Mill on the Taste of Terroir food and wine pairing in July. To prepare, they baked five pizzas and Dane showed up with bottles of wine. The first session consumed plenty of pizza and wine and didn’t decide the pairing so they circled back to another one. Nobody was complaining.
They have a heart to give back so they donate pizzas to Open Heart Kitchen monthly and are active in an industry charitable effort. Given their background as high school teachers, they are also excited to see the business grow to the point where they need to hire employees that they can mentor.